Recording video footage may at first appear straight forward, but we have found this is not necessarily the case. We hope the following tips will help you avoid the disappointment you could face otherwise.
- Set Up – Never set up two or more video cameras in such a way that one can ‘see’ another when using night shot (IR). The light from the IR will appear either invisible or red and very dim to the naked eye, but the video cameras will record a bright white light from each IR in its field of vision.
- Refreshing Tapes – To prevent ‘ghosting’, where noise or previous recording bleeds through your most recent recording, record over each tape fully with a lens cap on. If you have a modern camera with an inbuilt shutter then just set it to record and shove it in a drawer for the duration of the tape, anything as long as it cannot record an images. An alternative is just to use new tapes every time, but this can become quite costly, especially if you’re investigating for several hours with several camcorders.
- Which cam is best? – It has been our experience that the older style camcorders such as the Sony TRV 230E are far more likely to capture phenomena as opposed to the more modern and more expensive Sony HC19E and similar models. Don’t ask us why this is, we don’t know. Perhaps its a difference in the recording media (Hi8 -v- DV) or possibly a difference in the lens, we don’t know.
- Cleaning – Always clean your lens meticulously immediately prior to use. This greatly diminishes the possibility of your footage being hampered by dust and grimy marks.
- Try to take time out to sit in your garden for a few hours at night just watching through the view finder (or flip out screen) to get used to how a moth and a fly appear under IR/Night vision. This will help you distinguish between phenomena (orbs) and bugs; a relatively common error. You will note that insect flight paths usually follow an erratic pattern where orbs tend to glide more fluidly and with purpose.
- If you intend to lock off a camcorder (set it up in a locked room) or mount it on a tripod without an operator, be prepared to stick some match sticks in your eyes and have a cattle prod handy when reviewing your footage. Ninety minutes of the same, static, unchanging dark scene is tedious and can be hypnotic, i.e. it is likely you will miss any phenomena or fall asleep. There are arguments for and against both static and roaming camcorders, each have their merits. At the end of the day it boils down to how much equipment you have, what you hope to capture and how you think you’re going to capture it.
- Long or Short play? – Again there are arguments for both. If you want clarity keep it on short play, long play will result in very pixelated footage when enlarged on your PC, furthermore, you significantly reduce the possibility of your tape being played on another camcorder when recording on Long Play. If you want to record for a long time without having to change the tape then select Long Play. Our best advice? Short play, it gives the critics less to pick at.
- Buy extra batteries and always make sure your cells are fully charged prior to investigation. If not, be prepared to mount the cam on a tripod or remain in one position with your camera plugged into the mains. There’s nothing worse than witnessing something with the naked eye and hitting record only to find your battery just died. NB-It has been our common experience to find many fully charged batteries suddenly drained for no apparent reason during investigations. You have been warned!
- Lighting – Some cams come with a reasonable built in IR light, others do not. You can purchase small IR lamps to mount on the hot shoe of your cam but our experience is these are hardly worth the expense for the benefits received. The coverage is still quite minimal and they run off batteries! If you’re considering going to the expense of better IR lighting you might want to consider going the extra mile and purchasing a 940nm LED IR lamp capable of 10 metres plus coverage at an angle of 50 degrees or more. These are mains powered, are very effective and enable the cam users to do their thing without worrying about their little IR lamp. 860nm are usually a little cheaper but emit a small amount of red light visible to the naked eye, whereas 940nm is invisible, thus enabling you to work in complete darkness. When mounting such hefty lamp try to place it where the video cameras are least likely to ‘see’ it thus preventing the white glare obscuring your night vision footage.
Article written by Colin Nunn